Meredith Wood Smith at the DPO

By Meredith Wood Smith of Portland, Oregon. Meredith is the newly elected chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. The following was her speech to the state delegates - prior to the vote.

What is the Democratic Party for? Some say, "elect candidates." Some say, "push office holders to adopt our policies." I say, "neither."

Our party does not exist just to elect people, or to take stands on issues. The purpose of our Party is to make the world we live in a better place. In our cities... counties... state ...and country. A better place for all of us, regardless of our race, religion or residence; our skin or sex or sexual orientation; our age, or ability. A better place for us, for our children, and for our great great grandchildren.

That's why we must find and elect outstanding candidates. That's why we must form and push for sound policies. That's why we need a relevant, open and functioning Democratic Party: to make things better! So, the question must never be "which is more important, electing people, or pushing sound policies?" The question must rather always be "Which is the most important, right now, in making things better?" – and then go for it!

That's why for the last four years I've traveled Oregon, working with counties and with candidates to build our Party, and that's why I hope you'll let me spend two more years doing that, as your Chair.

We've had some wonderful successes. When you chose me as Vice Chair four years ago 9 of our counties weren't even here. 6 of those 9 are here today.

Four years ago we controlled neither houses of our State Legislature. Today we control both -- and look at the terrific leadership our Democratic majority has already shown!

Last year folks were saying we couldn't reelect Ted -– and Ted won going away.

We've had some great successes locally, too: Phil Houk, Pendleton Mayor; Mike Wendel, Prineville Mayor; Steve Grasty, County Judge in Burns – who's here today – to name just a few. We've done all this because we don't need a tragedy like Katrina to remind us of our responsibility to make a difference – to deliver the promise of America to everyone.

But there's so much more to do. Most of rural Oregon still votes "red." Our majority in the Oregon House is razor thin. Gordon Smith and Greg Walden still sit in Congress. And the disaster occupying the White House! I hear Dr. King's words: "We have entered a war not knowing the truth, or the real agenda, and our men and women are dying or forever maimed...and we are leaving a legacy of hate..."

- We still must battle for the right to organize, and to seek a living wage.
- We still have 100,000 plus Oregon children without health care.
- And the Jackson County libraries might close for lack of funds.

I've traveled Oregon, visiting – often more than once – 29 of our 36 counties (I've been miscounting!) I've rejoiced in the smell of pine, juniper and sage; the soft ocean breeze on a warm September day; the lift of living in the shadows of our magnificent mountains and the unparalleled beauty of our Columbia Gorge. I've stayed in your homes, talking with you into the night, or sharing coffee at your breakfast table. I've listened to the cry of the osprey along the Rogue River, the sound of the surf hitting Haystack Rock, the wondrous silence of the high desert. I love this land more than I can say, and promise, if you'll let me, to devote all my energy to helping our Party make it what it can and should be.

I will be a full-time chair, for our Party and our State;
I will strive to insure transparency in our Party, seeking your ideas, and keeping you informed;
I will work with you to implement a thirty-six county strategy;
I will continue to build strong relationships with our elected officials;, and,
I will work with you to insure diversity in our party – geographic, ethnic, constituent, cultural – so our party is the big tent it needs to be.

You've heard that politics is "the art of the possible." I like a different definition: politics is "the art of getting things done." Give me the chance, and teaming with our wonderful staff, with Jill and Bill and Jenny and Wayne, with whoever we choose today as secretary, and with all of you, I will always focus on getting things done.

And as we move forward, let us never forget our ultimate purpose: making our Country, our State, yes, our neighborhoods, a better place.

For everybody.

Thank you I ask for your vote for Chair.

Comments

  • pedro (unverified)
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    wait... is politics the art of the possible? or does it consists of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. :)

    congratulations, sounds like a good plan.

  • JohnH (unverified)
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    What is the Democratic Party for? Some say, "elect candidates." Some say, "push office holders to adopt our policies."

    I say, neither. I say its purpose it raising money from unions, the wealthy and corporate interests and then funneling it to reliable candidates who will not rock the boat.

  • What's the point of this? (unverified)
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    I've rejoiced in the smell of pine, juniper and sage; the soft ocean breeze on a warm September day; the lift of living in the shadows of our magnificent mountains and the unparalleled beauty of our Columbia Gorge. I've stayed in your homes, talking with you into the night, or sharing coffee at your breakfast table. I've listened to the cry of the osprey along the Rogue River, the sound of the surf hitting Haystack Rock, the wondrous silence of the high desert.

    I'm sure Gordon Smith's advisors are shitting their pants.

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    Settle down. Waxing eloquent doesn't hurt. It sounded pretty good in the room.

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    Posted by: JohnH | Mar 12, 2007 1:22:22 PM

    (scroll)

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    I'm sure Gordon Smith's advisors are shitting their pants.

    If they aren't, they should. Let me translate the poetry to something a little more plain, so you can understand the politics of it.

    "True I'm a city girl, but I'm no Portlander who thinks the State of Oregon begins in Jantzen Beach and ends down the I5 corridor in Salem. I actually care about the rest of the State enough to drive thousand of miles to listen to your concerns, and have them reflect in our messaging. I don't think I'm better than you, and can connect with disaffected farmers and ranchers who used to be reliably Democratic, by holding meetings around the State in a family-diner setting. I'm very liberal, but my style isn't that of a stereotypical urban rabble rouser that doesn't play well in the rest of Oregon."

    It's difficult to compare, unless you also heard the other speeches, which (while equally as good), had a different emphasis. Dan, who I found extremely impressive, bragged repeatedly about "Making Gordon Smith cry".

    While that really appeals to me personally, I can easily imagine Eastern Oregonians thinking we need to focus on being non-scary to wavering Republican voters seriously reconsidering us. More rhetorical carrot, less rhetorical ("how could you vote for Bush!") stick. I'm nearly certain that Meredith won on the strength of her Eastern Oregon support.

  • mason (unverified)
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    Meredith Wood Smith is all good. The DPO made a great choice for at least the next two years. She lacks the one thing I see in so many who would be "king/queen". Arrogance. HOO-RAY. . .I guess I"ll stay.

  • Kumbaya (unverified)
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    What is the Democratic Party for? Some say, "elect candidates." Some say, "push office holders to adopt our policies." I say, "neither."

    Our party does not exist just to elect people, or to take stands on issues. The purpose of our Party is to make the world we live in a better place.

    Earth to space cadet Woods. You can't make things better unless elect people to office who take stands on issues to advance true Democratic Party values.

    The strategy of focusing on "make things better" rather than fighting hard to elect Democrats or taking stands on issues sure worked well from 2001 to 2006 didn't it?

    I guess it could be worse if wasn't for all the warm and fuzzy vibes being set out from this corner of the country, I guess we would be in three, rather than just two, misguided wars; overpaying twice as much as we are overpaying for prescriptions under Medicare; having an even greater increase in the number of working people without health insurance; remembering 9 instead of just the 3 or 4 amendments in our Bill of Rights (we'll never have to fear the loss of the second amendment) we've lost; and being being happy to just ask the FBI to pass on our mail, email, and phone calls when they are done with them.

    If Woods counts a poor excuse for a Democrat like Kulongoski as a success, we are really screwed. The question isn't whether we won because Kulongoski beat Saxton, but why did we lose by ending up with Kulongoski against Saxton at all?

    I don't have time for this kind of mindlessness, and neither does our state or our country. In view of this vacuous speech, I need to know just a couple of things to decide whether or not the Woods and the DPO has anything at all to offer anyone:

    What is Woods, the DPO, and all of our elected Democratic-like elected officials specifically going to do:

    1) to get us out Iraq and Afghanistan, yesterday?

    2) restore the Bill of Rights and prosecute the traitors who have stolen our country?

    3) deliver a single-payer healthcare plan by 2010?

    4) impose sensible economic policies, starting with tax increases and the repeal of tax breaks at the state and national level on the well-off, to fund education and the other social services which provide hope for rural folks, urban working people, and their children that a better future is possible?

    I also want to know what Woods, the DPO, our governor and the rest of the Democratic elect officials at the state and national level specifically have to say about this utter cowardice:

    Democrats back off on effort to limit Bush's Iran options http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/iraq/20070312-1603-us-iraq.html

    The Iran-related proposal stemmed from a desire to make sure Bush did not launch an attack without going to Congress for approval, but drew opposition from numerous members of the rank and file in a series of closed-door sessions last week.

    Finally, I want to know where Woods, the DPO, and our governor, and the rest of our Democratic elected officials (and most notably our U.S. Senator) are cowering today, in the wake of this outrageous:

    Cheney Assails Those Favoring Iraq Drawdown http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/12/world/middleeast/12cnd-cheney.html?em&ex=1173844800&en=035673f2422390f2&ei=5087%0A

    WASHINGTON, March 12 — Vice President Dick Cheney offered an aggressive defense of the Bush administration’s Iraq strategy today, asserting that those in Congress who pursue a gradual drawdown of American forces are “undermining” the troops and that a withdrawal would represent “a full validation of the Al Qaeda strategy.”

    Mr. Cheney’s comments, delivered before the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, came days after Democratic leaders said they would seek to place new conditions on military operations in Iraq and would call for the withdrawal of most American troops by August 2008.

    Does Woods believe AIPAC should be publicly pressured to either denounce this traitorous attack by the VP on attack on Democrats and Democratic Party values, or be denounced for not denouncing Cheney?

  • fluff (unverified)
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    Steven,

    Meredith Wood Smith is the party chair, not a candidate for US Senate. Your "translation" is silly and naive.

    Congratulations though on putting up a post that didn't inlude any of your petty passive-aggressive personal insults.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    Judas priest, Just exactly what the heck do some of you expect from us poor activist Democrats? The active membership of DPO is less than 1% of registered Democrats, and you'd like us to come out telling people just how they're supposed to campaign and then act once elected? You have a very exaggerated idea of our "swat." We could behave in just that manner and guarantee that not one legislator would ever listen to us again, there is such a thing as being persuasive because you have good ideas rather than thinking you're holding a loaded gun to their heads - not to mention it would shoot spitballs.

    You could seriously piss me off, every county party falls all over itself to make newcomers feel welcome, where are you on meeting nights? Baker County Democrats regularly put together about 1% of our registered Dems and that makes us the envy of many county parties. Be under no illusions, you want to show up, any one of us can find plenty for you to do.

    Meredith Wood-Smith has worked her hiney off trying to meld this party together, she's done the traveling, she's spent the time, she's spent the time with our legislators, you want to carp, then show what you've done other than type some slams. We don't make any money off this stuff, we get to spend it, spend our time, spend our effort and get small to no thanks for it. That's right, Ted K came to us and we kicked butt for him, what does he owe us? Maybe a corner of his ear when we make sense.

    Yeah, DPO is the biggest organized group of progressives/liberals in the state, the problem is that doesn't make a juggernaut.

  • PtownObersver (unverified)
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    Woods, why are you asking for votes on the 12th, for an election that was held on the 11th?

    Smacks of self-satisfied gloating to me. Also, your tone is philosophical. Why?

    Your new position is not a sandbox; it is a vital role for a vital state in a vital country. If I were you, I'd put your head down and put in a good, hard 60-70 hour work week, every week, for the next couple years -- you've taken the position, now take it seriously and get Democrats elected. That's your job. You can't let your predecessors be the model either; desperate times call for desperate measure from our Democratic officials. You have to elevate your job description to a new level.

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    Earth to space cadet Woods. You can't make things better unless elect people to office who take stands on issues to advance true Democratic Party values.

    If you read, she says that what we're here for is making things better. How we do that is by electing good candidates and forming and passing sound policies.

    Woods, why are you asking for votes on the 12th, for an election that was held on the 11th?

    This was her speech from the meeting to the delegates. So yes, the meeting happened already (the 10th, actually), but this is word for word the speech she gave. Sure, we had about 200 or so people in the room when she gave it. But that is nowhere the number of people who would like to know what was in that speech. So it's now posted here.

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    PTO wrote, Woods, why are you asking for votes on the 12th, for an election that was held on the 11th?

    She's not asking for the votes. I asked her for her speech, so we could publish it here... consider it part of the historical record. Also, given the large number of BlueOregon readers who weren't there, well, I thought it would be good for folks to see what the fuss was about.

    Settle down, OK?

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    Thanks for making me laugh out loud, "fluff". I guess the hypocrisy of being an anonymous troll calling other people "passive-aggressive" is lost on you.

    I call 'em as I see 'em. The good, the bad, and the Republican ugly. And because there's rarely perfection in this world, that means my assessments almost never claim to see it.

    I'm not trying to make you comfortable. I'm trying to make you think.

    And if you don't like it, tough. My party believes that a nation improves itself by rigorous debate and self-criticism. And, not being hypocrites, we know that means we have to be just as hard on ourselves as we are on others. If you want smarmy platitudes and lockstep thinking, go join the Republicans.

  • Hawthorne (unverified)
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    Steven,

    In your own words (I presume these are yours, if not...well, they still apply):

    "1. Fix - Don't Accuse

    Do Democrats need to move left? Do we need to move center? The answer is yes. Our party has room for many points of view. Certainly we need to adjust our communications strategy, and this may mean having some of our present leaders step aside to give more effective voices a chance. But remember: tolerance is one of our core beliefs. Now is the time to pull together. Leave the vicious backbiting to the denizens of hate radio."

    After reading your posts here I would suggest that you take your own advice.

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    If you read, she says that what we're here for is making things better. How we do that is by electing good candidates and forming and passing sound policies.

    What? Read a post before making snarky negative comments about it? I think such a radical suggestion makes you a traitor to the blogosphere, Jenni.

    Kari, thanks for posting the speech here.

  • Oregonian not living in Portland (unverified)
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    Great,

    The Portland elites have their woman.

    Why do I get the feeling the Members only sign isn't coming down?

    Congratulations Portland! I'm sure this is the last victory you will have for years to come.

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    doretta--

    Isn't that the truth? ; )

    Oregonian not living in Portland--

    Since Meredith got a lot more than 14 votes ("Portland" only has 14 votes... actually, those are for the entire county and some of us delegates and alternates are not from Portland), I'd say she had support from more than just Portland... and support from outside the tri-county metro area as well.

    And based on the stickers being worn by many of the delegates, I can tell you she didn't get 100% of the votes in the metro area, either.

  • frank carper (unverified)
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    The Portland elites have their woman.

    actually the portland elites were doing everything they could to stop meredith. or weren't you paying attention to this?

  • Kumbaya (unverified)
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    I have just one final comment for the DPO/Woods defenders here. I did read her speech several times closely, and I didn't find one meaningful word about doing anything specific or real to solve a single problem, just a lot of typical vacuous platitudes. In particular, she did not include one word about making it a priority of the DPO to end the two stupid and misguided wars we should have never waged, and are now losing ever more day by day.

    Crowing about helping a governor and other elected officials who have yet to lead on this and other defining issues of the day, rather than saying we have to do much better by nominating and electing real Democrats, really raises questions about what she has to offer.

    Sorry, but I don't have any respect for sorry excuses for wimpy Democrats like that. Those of you who take offense at that, and who feel you define and defend the DPO as envisioned by Woods in her speech, need to have the guts to say that you don't have the guts to say (read that carefully) you really don't want people like me who demand a higher level of integrity, character, and backbone in the party.

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    They got much more into the specifics in the forum prior to the speeches, where the candidates answered questions turned in by the audience. I wish this portion of the day had been longer. Next election I highly recommend this portion being in a location where you can eat so we can have lunch and listen to the answers. There were a lot of great questions in the pile, and we only heard a fraction of them.

    You can read about the forum here: http://www.blueoregon.com/2007/03/liveblogging_th.html

    And I don't recall a single one of the candidates talking about the war, other than in a passing mention.

    There was a lot to talk about, and only a short time to do it in. And any specifics, of course, must go through the body. That makes it difficult for chair candidates to talk on a lot of issues -- it would appear as if they were saying the DPO would do something if they were elected, which would not be correct. Actions have to be approved by the body first.

    However, I will point out that the body did pass a resolution asking for an immediate investigation into impeachment on Bush and Cheney over the Iraq War and looking at trying them for high crimes and misdemeanors.

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    There were twenty new faces on the Newshour tonight...y'know that moment of silent regard on PBS, at the end of the show, for the kids dying every day over there. One of them was 18. That's awfully young.

  • Justin (unverified)
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    Kumbaya for President! You "don't have any respect for sorry excuses for wimpy Democrats like that" because you aren't a Democrat. Democrats don't stand for any of the things you mentioned that we need to change. It is time for a 3rd party in the United States government. Will it change anything? We won't know until we try. I used to consider myself a Democrat, but now I see that those spineless half-wits stand for NOTHING. I will NEVER vote for another Democrat again. The more I think about it the closer I am to Libertarian in belief than I was ever willing to admit to myself. What do you think?

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    Yes, those are my words, Hawthorne. And I completely believe them.

    But I honestly don't believe I'm engaging in anything close to vicious backbiting. I don't insult people. (Well, OK, maybe I insult Republicans from time to time.) I always try to be nice, within the confines of telling the truth.

    But truth is important too. I didn't cause Mac Pritchard to get only a literal handful (about 5) votes outside of the Multnomah County delegation. I merely noted that he hadn't made the time to meet the vast majority of the volunteer State Delegates before he needed them. So if you're angry about the blatantly predictable outcome, be mad at them, not me. I'm just the messenger here.

    But fine, I'll tone it down a notch. It'll help my family life too. (I get more arguments from my wife over these things than I ever do BlueOregonians.)

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